Elections, elections, elections

Scott Houghton assesses the value of local elections, and if students should be more engaged

Scott Houghton
14th May 2018
Image: Flickr

The local elections on the 3rd of May were significant nationally and locally. Although many people dismiss them as unimportant, local elections decide what council you live under but also act as a barometer at the national level. From local election results political parties and journalists can survey the mood of the country. 

Accumulatively, it would be difficult to weave together a narrative out of the 2018 local elections. Labour didn’t do as well as it expected, although in some areas (especially in London) it had the best results since September 1971. On the other hand, the Conservatives managed to hold on better than expected, and the Liberal Democrats did very well – taking two wards in Sunderland, for instance. Perhaps one of the few big indicators of the night was the enormous collapse for UKIP, whose vote share collapsed across the country, confirming the popular adage that new parties “are like bees. Once they sting they soon die”. However, by the time the next election comes the local election results are unlikely to be indicative of the general mood of the country, due to low turnout and the fact that these elections were limited to specific localities, rather than nationally.

In Newcastle, Labour held onto the council with a voter share of 41.4%, with the Liberal Democrats coming second at 20.2%, and the Conservatives coming fourth, behind an independent, on 12.3%.

Overall, much will stay the same for university students, given that Labour have controlled the council since 2011.


Students can, and do, play a big part in local election results


Students can and do play a big part in local election results. On election night whenever a big city gained a higher Liberal Democrat vote share than was expected Twitter was alight with people asking “students?”. Indeed, the high percentage of Liberal Democrats in Newcastle may be down to its large student population and activist base.

I think that students should play a role in the local elections simply because they are elections, and everyone has a hard won right to vote, something that is denied to many across the world. But, for those more politically inclined, local elections do seem to show that student populations can have an impact on election results. For instance, think of the Green Party’s only MP, Caroline Lucas, who owes her seat in Brighton Pavilion largely down to students.

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